The coming college baseball weekend is going to be as good as it gets. We have a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, as well as another top-5 battle with major SEC implications.
COLLEGE BASEBALL RANKINGS: UCLA on top as Pac-12 takes over the top 10
Let’s take a look at six series that could impact the 2019 college baseball season and give us a little look at what the road to the College World Series may look like come May.
No. 1 UCLA at. No. 2 Stanford
Zero. That’s a good number to start with for the Bruins. It’s how many series UCLA, winners of its first six in 2019, has lost this season. The battle this weekend at Sunken Diamond will obviously be its biggest test yet, but to walk away winners of seven straight series will send a loud message to a top 25-loaded Pac-12.
Stanford is red hot as well, winners of 10 straight, the longest current winning streak in college baseball. The Cardinal have yet to lose a series either, taking impressive back-to-back series against top-25 powers Cal State Fullerton and Texas to open March.
This will be a showdown between two of the best pitching staffs in college baseball. UCLA enters third in all of DI with a team 2.54 ERA. Unfortunately for the Bruins, one of the teams they trail is Stanford, owners of an impressive 2.36 combined ERA.
For Stanford, Brendan Beck (2.45 ERA and a 36-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36.2 innings) has been strong atop the rotation while Erik Miller (3-0, 2.56 ERA, 37 strikeouts) has made Sundays a nightmare for opposing teams. But it’s not all starting pitching as Jack Little is among the best in the nation at closing out games with six saves and an impressive 25-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
No. 1 UCLA heads north this weekend to take on No. 2 Stanford in a rare matchup of 1-vs-2.— UCLA Baseball (@UCLABaseball) April 4, 2019
This is the first time two Pac-12 teams are playing a weekend series ranked as the top-two teams in the country in over 20 years.
NOTES | https://t.co/BQNIMnb9Ne#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/BkwHCJA9pV
UCLA counters with a rotation of Zach Pettway and Jack Ralston as a formidable 1-2 punch, but this staff is deep. Jack Filby, Nathan Hadley, Kyle Mora, and Holden Powell have been as consistent as they come out of the bullpen. Paired with outstanding defense, they make it hard for any team to mount a comeback against the Bruins.
Which is good for UCLA. Some of the Bruins bats are still waiting to heat up — like Chase Strumpf and Michael Toglia — but guys like Jack Stronach and Garrett Mitchell are showing this team can grind out runs and let the pitching take care of the rest. The same can really be said about Stanford. Will Matthiessen has been fun to watch. He’s been solid out of the pen and consistent at the plate, entering the weekend amid a four-game hitting streak in which he’s compiled eight hits... and a 2.25 ERA.
These teams are evenly matched and ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for a reason. This series doesn’t simply have huge Pac-12 implications. It can shake up the college baseball top 25.
What else to watch:
No. 5 Vanderbilt at No. 4 Georgia
A battle for the SEC East is everything you’d want it to be: one of the nation’s best offenses facing off against one of the best pitching staffs. Vanderbilt is no slouch on the mound, but the Commodores offense is exciting. They showed that off this past week, sending their game against Western Kentucky to extra innings with back-to-back game-tying home runs from Austin Martin (.449, three home runs, .530 on-base percentage) and JJ Bleday (.353, 12 home runs, 36 RBI) in the ninth. The duo powers a Dores’ offense hitting .323 as a team with 31 home runs and 224 RBI.
Trying to cool them off will be Emerson Hancock, C.J. Smith, and Tony Locey for the Bulldogs. The three are a combined 12-2, and the rotation has posted an eye-popping 18-2 record and 2.19 ERA. Combined with an SEC-best fielding percentage, runs are tough to come by against the Dawgs. The opening night Hancock vs. Drake Fellows matchup should be one of the weekend's best.
No. 9 Texas A&M at No. 13 LSU
LSU’s junior righty Zack Hess and Texas A&M junior lefty John Doxakis go head-to-head in another big pitching showdown to start the weekend. But don’t sleep on the Aggies' No. 2 starter Asa Lacy, who strikes out 14.40 batters per nine this season. Despite the solid pitching presented by both teams, there is a lot of fun offensive firepower to watch this weekend.
Braden Shewmake is red-hot for Texas A&M amid a 13-game hitting streak, hitting .418 and producing runs with 14 scored and 15 driven in. Antoine Duplantis and Daniel Cabrera have provided pop for the Tigers with 13 combined home runs while Zach Watson continues to do Zach Watson things atop the lineup.
No. 10 Louisville at No. 23 Clemson
Both the Cardinals and Tigers are in hot pursuit of N.C. State, so this series has plenty of implications in the ACC. Louisville heads to Clemson amid a six-game win streak, while Clemson is coming off a midweek loss to Georgia. This is another pitching vs. hitting duel as Louisville’s pitching is amongst the best in the country, leading the ACC with a 2.83 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and four shutouts. Ace Reid Detmers (5-1, 0.92 ERA, 14.2 strikeouts-per-nine) and staff will have their hands full with Clemson’s offense, led by Logan Davidson’s hot bat. Davidson has hit in 16 of his last 17 games with seven home runs on the season.
No. 14 Arkansas at No. 15 Auburn
There will certainly be a shakeup atop the SEC West come Monday morning. With all four of the top teams playing each other, we should have a much clearer understanding of who owns the top of the West. Arkansas is looking to bounce back after dropping a series vs. Ole Miss last weekend. The Razorbacks blend a nice combination of batting average and power on offense, led by Heston Kjerstad, hitting .319 with five home runs. Both pitching staffs are led by exciting hurlers. Tanner Burns (Auburn) and Isaiah Campbell (Arkansas) have been two of the best the SEC has had to offer this season.
No. 21 Florida at No. 18 Ole Miss
Speaking of the Rebels, Ole Miss is coming off that big series win against Arkansas and looks to keep its SEC success rolling. It will face a Florida team amid a five-game win streak after dropping a series to Vanderbilt. Florida’s offense is clicking right now, as Wil Dalton and Austin Langworthy appear to be coming alive. While Brady McConnell deserves all eyes upon him as he leads the team in average (.370), runs (29), and hits (44), freshman Kendrick Calilao is the guy we’ll have our eyes on. The outfielder is hitting .330 with four home runs and 35 RBI, leading all freshmen so far this season.
BACK 2 BACK JACKS 💣💣— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) April 2, 2019
Nelly and Kendrick hit bombs out to left. First time this year the #Gators have hit back to back homers.
E4 | #Gators 8, FAMU 0
WATCH NOW: https://t.co/7k8X28KDxd pic.twitter.com/CUiWirG8FP
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco is searching for win No. 300, and it would be none the nicer to secure that prize in this top-25 series. While Florida’s offense looks to be shaping up, the Rebels' Tyler Keenan and Thomas Dillard have been at it all season. Dillard is hitting .330 with nine home runs (a top-20 mark in DI) while Keenan is hitting .309 with eight home runs and an SEC-best 44 RBI. There should be plenty of fire-power at Swayze Field this weekend.